November 9, 2005

Germany: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Filed under: Germany — Alex Ravenel @ 9:00 am

Note: This post is part of a series. See the second post here and the third post here.

I’ve been here a few months now, and noticed lots of things about Germany that are great, not so great, and some that just plain suck. As I’m sure that I’ll notice more things as time goes on, this will probably turn into something of a series. For now, here are (a few) things I’ve noticed from the last few months.

The Good

  • The Beer. As if this one needs explaining. This is a stereotype that is true—the beer in Germany is great. Even the cheap stuff tastes better than a lot of the swill you get in the States. That’s not to say that there isn’t good beer in the States—quite the contrary. I love Sierra Nevada, or Sam Adams, but those are premium beers in the States. Here, the normal, everyday stuff is just awesome.
  • The Chocolate. German chocolate is on par with Swiss or French. For 35 cents, you can get a 65% cocoa bar that is light years better than anything you can get for less than $5 in the States.
  • The Coffee. Germans drink more coffee than beer. Considering it’s hard to find coffee in sizes larger than 6 ounces, and beer comes by the half liter, that’s saying a lot. Suffice it to say, like most of Europe, they know how to brew a good cup.
  • The Travel. Germany is right in the middle of Europe, meaning you can easily travel to eastern, western, or southern Europe. And Germany itself has plenty of things to see. Germany is often wrongly one of the more overlooked countries in terms of European travel, but that just means less tourists to deal with for those of us that do travel through Germany.
  • The People. People say that Europeans, but Germans in particular, are cold and unfriendly. This isn’t true at all—they’re just not as “falsely” friendly. By that I mean that they aren’t as likely to small talk with you at the bus stop. But when you actually do talk to one, they are incredibly open, outgoing, and friendly. They take it seriously when you ask “How are you?”, and they listen just as seriously to you when they ask it.
  • The Environment/Parks. Germans love their forests, gardens, and parks. And just as much as they love die frische Luft, they are fanatical about protecting these green spaces. Conservationism and environmental protection is huge here, and it shows.

The Bad

  • Opening Hours. Things here don’t stay open as long as in the States. There’s no such thing as 24 hour stores, and almost everything is closed on Sundays.
  • The Travel. Yes, I know this is also listed as a good thing. But because Germany is in the middle of Europe, none of the big western (France, Spain) or southern (Italy) things are real close. It’s nice being able to do pretty much everything, but sometimes it sucks when you realize that most of Europe’s big sights (Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, etc) are 6 or more hours away. Nothing is far, but nothing is close, either.
  • The Internet. Internet connectivity in the dorms here doesn’t seem to be quite the necessity it is in the States, though this is changing. And you can get DSL that’s twice as fast as in the States for almost half the price, so that redeems it somewhat, but still doesn’t help in the dorms.
  • Americanism. Germany is probably the most “Americanized” of the European nations, probably even moreso than Great Britain. Naturally, a good bit of this is to be expected, given that Germany was occupied after the war, but they continued on with it afterwards. This isn’t all that bad of a thing, but sometimes you wish things were a little more different. I came here to travel and go somewhere new, and when things feel just like at home, it makes me feel I’d rather just be back home than here, away from my friends and family.

The Ugly

  • The Bureaucracy. They love it here, maybe more than beer and coffee. Trying to get anything done feels like an exercise in futility. I’ve never seen so many papers that have to be signed by so many different people. It annoys me even thinking about how difficult it is to do anything official here. Which brings me to my next point…
  • The Economy. It’s no secret the German economy sucks right now. But this affects things in more ways than you would think. Case in point—they are installing internet in my dorm, and we have been warned that things might take a little longer than normal because the workers are likely to deliberately drag things out to keep work longer. And the fact that it takes forever to do anything official here certainly isn’t helping at all.

So, that’s it for now. I’ll continue to compile more things as I notice them.


  1. The Ugly??
    Have a look at this Economist article:

    Germany’s economy
    Oct 10th 2005

    Germany’s economy is the world’s third-biggest and one of its most advanced. As the economic heart of Europe, its performance has far-reaching effects outside Germany, particularly in other EU countries and in Central and Eastern Europe.

    Lately it has been belittled, perhaps unfairly as there are some encouraging signs. Performance has been sluggish, with growth at 1.2% in 2004 and expected to rise by perhaps only 0.7% in 2005. (Things are worse in the ex-communist east.) Per capita GDP is now below the EU average. Taxes are high and complicated and red tape is thick. Meagre returns on investment, a legacy of the state-owned banks, also hinder growth, as does a system of consensus-led corporate governance. Recently however, unit labour costs have declined substantially against the rest of the euro zone’s and exports are beginning to benefit.

    In 2003 Gerhard Schröder launched “Agenda 2010”, making labour-market reform a top priority and spurring negotiation between industry and the unions. Neither these reforms nor reduced taxation have done much to improve consumer confidence for Germany’s industrial workers, who are now unemployed in large numbers.

    Copyright © 2005 The Economist Newspaper and The Economist Group. All rights reserved.

    Comment by Christoph — November 30, 2005 @ 6:48 pm

  2. Interesting. Hopefully things are getting better, but there’s not much denying that the economy here is in pretty rough shape. I’m looking forward to seeing if things change much with a new Bundeskanzler…

    Comment by Alex Ravenel — December 1, 2005 @ 1:21 am

  3. […] This post is part of a series. See the first entry here. […]

    Pingback by Nach Deutschland » Germany: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Part II — January 15, 2006 @ 11:45 am

  4. […] Part One […]

    Pingback by One Hand Clapping » Blog Archive » Germany - the Good, the Bad and the Ugly — January 18, 2006 @ 9:00 pm

  5. In the army I was stationed in Bamberg for 2 and a half years, 1987-1989. I figured by now they would surely have 24 hour places. But of course, did you know if a store stays open past a certain hour they have to pay extra taxes. Crazy isn’t it, also until a house is completely finished the taxes are less than when finished, so some people never finish their houses.

    Hated beer when I left the states, returned loving it.

    Comment by James Stephenson — January 19, 2006 @ 2:28 pm

  6. Yes, it is crazy. The funny tax laws and such that they have here are always a laugh. So many ridiculous things that you really just wouldn’t think make any sense, but because of the massive bureaucracy, they happen.

    But still, the only places that are allowed to stay open 24 hours are clubs and gas stations. That’s about it. The government mandates that most things have to be closed by 8PM. Interesting to say the least.

    Comment by Alex Ravenel — January 19, 2006 @ 2:35 pm

  7. […] It’s time for the third and probably last installment of Germany: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. You can read the first part here or the second part here. […]

    Pingback by Nach Deutschland » Germany: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Part III — February 12, 2006 @ 1:00 pm

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